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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A two-hour season opener is expected to stand out and set the tone for
the rest of the season and "The Knight of the Drones" succeeds on both
fronts. The murderer of Michael's predecessor escapes from prison and
Devon taps Michael and KITT to capture him. But the standard revenge
plot that appeared to be set up suddenly expands as we discover double
agent Margo is recruiting men of specialized talents to commit an
ambitious robbery of a highly marketable military device (one similar
to the "Star Wars" missile defense shield that was ballyhooed back in
those waning years of the Cold War).
The episode is packed with action as Michael's efforts are continually hampered by missile-firing drones, cars that Jared Martin's character Dr. David Halston is operating remotely. There are several well-done car chase scenes through the hilly streets of San Francisco that will evoke memories of BULLITT.
Jared Martin, a few years away from starring in WAR OF THE WORLDS, is the standout guest star as the heinous Dr. Halston. The pain test he gives to Michael as an unfriendly warning was similar but more sinister than that given by Bill Murray at the beginning of GHOST BUSTERS (and I wondered if that film didn't inspire its inclusion in this episode, which aired only three months after the film's release).
Jim Brown is always a welcome guest star and he plays his part well (especially his reactions when being driven in the drone car), but I was disappointed by how his character C.J. Jackson was ultimately treated. Here is the man who murdered Michael's predecessor. That information pointed to a revenge angle that was disappointingly never developed. I anticipated Michael or maybe even Devon having a climactic confrontation with Jackson, but they never do. Jackson is killed by Dr. Halston almost as an afterthought. One shot and the mighty man turns and falls. What a letdown.
The strong supporting cast contribute much to the episode. The Barbarian Brothers (twin bodybuilders David and Peter Paul) brought a perfect balance of humor and menace to their performances as Margo's muscle.
Another standout is Evan Kim as the affable "wire man" Peter Wong, an ex-con who wants only to go straight and start life over as a chef. His bungling in and firing from Fong's kitchen is a fun scene (and Wood Moy as Fong gets credit here too playing that tyrannical boss we've all had). I fondly remembered Kim from the 1982 movie MEGAFORCE (which film also featured Edward Mulhare) and was happy to see him at work again. He is so likable that even the show's producers decided only to incapacitate him with knockout gas and not to kill him as they did Jackson (Wong's girlfriend was not so fortunate, murdered off-screen by the Barbarian Brothers to underscore Margo's ruthlessness and perhaps to illustrate that crime not only affects you but the ones you love).
The episode features beautiful scenery of San Francisco and several shots of KITT and the Foundation's semi crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. There is also ample humor to relieve the tension, from the running gag of the elderly tourist couple who keep finding themselves between KITT and the drones to the hilarious kung fu fighting sequence where Fong's bodyguards furiously attack KITT after it insults them in Chinese.
A dangling plot thread: whatever happened to the woman chauffeur who picked up Jackson and Peter in the fancy British car? She reappears as Jackson's squeeze, but then disappears from the story without a trace.
And it wouldn't be a Glen Larson production without the obligatory cheesecake, here provided by a couple of lengthy and gratuitous scenes of dancing girls in the nightclub beneath which the baddies are tunneling.
Bonnie repairs and improves the missile-damaged KITT and rejoins the cast. Nothing against Patricia McPherson, but I would have loved to have seen Erin Gray take the role that she originated in the KNIGHT RIDER proto-pilot that aired as the "Cain's Cruiser" episode of Glen Larson's earlier series BJ AND THE BEAR.
"The Knight of the Drones" is a thoroughly enjoyable, turbo-boosted third season opener.
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